Molson Coors doubles down on premium, innovative drinks amid beer demand decline

Molson Coors Brewing Co. plans to continue focusing on offering more premium and innovative drinks, including a soon-to-be launched line of cannabis-infused beverages, as it grapples with declining beer demand in North America.

“Consumers are drinking slightly less, but better,” said CEO Mark Hunter during a conference call with analysts Tuesday after the company released its fourth-quarter financial results.

The company must accelerate premiumization of its portfolio and innovation agenda, he said.

It’s doubling down on efforts to promote several brands, including Blue Moon — a craft brand that Molson plans to double its media spend on in the United States. The brand is called Belgian Moon in Canada.

Hunter also outlined some of the company’s innovation efforts, including cannabis-infused beverages.

The company expects Truss, a joint venture with Hexo Corp., to launch a portfolio of cannabis-infused beverages this autumn. The federal government has said it will legalize edibles by Oct. 17.

Molson, which keeps its books in U.S. dollars, is over delivering on its cost-savings plans for 2017-19, which is partly insulating the company from weaker industry demand in North America, among other industry challenges, Hunter said.

The company also restated its financial results for 2016 and 2017 due to income tax accounting errors.

For 2016, it understated its deferred tax liability and income tax expense which resulted in an overstatement of its net income by $399.1 million.

However, the deferred tax liability required revaluation in 2017 due to U.S. tax changes and that resulted in an overstatement of its income tax expense and understatement of its net income of $151.4 million for the year.

The company reported a fourth-quarter profit of $76 million or 35 cents per diluted share for the three months ended Dec. 31 compared with a profit of $716.9 million or $3.31 per diluted share a year earlier.

Its underlying profit for the quarter amounted to $182.3 million or 84 cents per diluted share, up from $134.3 million or 62 cents per share a year earlier.

Net sales totalled $2.42 billion, down from $2.58 billion.

Molson Coors was expected to earn 79 cents per share in adjusted profits in the quarter on $2.5 billion in revenues, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters Eikon.

For the full year, the brewer’s net profit decreased to $1.12 billion on $10.8 billion of revenues, from $1.56 billion on $11 billion of revenues in 2017.

Molson Coors shares were down $5.99 or 6.8 per cent at $82.01 in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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